What happens when you put some of North Carolina’s greatest IT minds in the same room?
More than 200 educators, researchers, government officials, and business leaders from all over North Carolina gathered at Elon University on Thursday and Friday to “think big” about the future of high-speed Internet, networking, and the applications broadband enables during MCNC’s annual event, NCREN Community Day 2012.
Each year, the private not-for-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), recognizes and celebrates the progress and achievements from all over the state with NCREN Community Day. This year’s “think big” theme highlighted both the current work of network constituents as well as the future of big data and broadband, health care, K-20 education, video, cloud computing, fiber expansion, shared services, and the role broadband plays in economic development and job creation in North Carolina.
MCNC President and CEO Joe Freddoso provided an update on the $144 million Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative, noting the second phase of the project is 90 percent complete with the overall project scheduled to be finished in spring 2013. He also challenged attendees to think about what this historic expansion of NCREN will mean for the state.
“North Carolina continues to set a national benchmark by leveraging NCREN to provide high-performance broadband connectivity in the public sector, and we are nearly finished with the surmounting challenge of building an owned, statewide optical fiber network to become the new and advanced NCREN,” Freddoso said. “This new infrastructure affordably and effectively removes bandwidth restraints from how we conduct public service, education, health care, and economic development in North Carolina. So, now it is time to ‘think big’ on how we use it.”
And, that’s just what attendees did during the two-day MCNC event.
Highlights on the first day included two workshops on grant writing and social media.
Janna Anderson, associate professor of communications at Elon University, presented research from the nationally-recognized Imagining the Internet Center, which she also oversees. Added Anderson, “the future of the Internet is pervasive, portable, personal, and precarious,” which followed by three Elon students sharing some of the latest research from the center.
Meg Lowman, director of the Nature Research Center at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, showcased how connectivity is aiding in research projects in North Carolina and all over the world. Mladen Vouk, associate vice provost for IT at N.C. State University, talked about the exciting work currently underway to virtualize Centennial Campus through cloud-based services and applications. Finally, Paul Jones, director of ibiblio.org and clinical associate professor at UNC Chapel Hill, closed out the first day with a thought-provoking presentation on how email really isn’t necessary today; a talk that participants selected from a Doodle Poll prior to the event.
The second day started with Business with Bacon with MCNC staff and moved into a panel discussion on the history and evolution of MCNC featuring Sam Averitt, Fred Brooks, Alan Blatecky, Sherwood Smith as well as insights from Bill Kress and Jane Patterson. Dr. Steve North of Bakersville Community Medical Clinic presented on the work surrounding rural school-based telemedicine for students which led into a legislative panel discussion featuring North Carolina Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, Jr. and Rep. Linda Johnson. Jonathan Vester, Chief Information Officer at Nash Community College, closed with a discussion on video services and how these capabilities are extending today’s modern classrooms. Finally, John Killebrew, MCNC’s longtime Vice President of NCREN Community Support, was recognized on his upcoming retirement.
MCNC also announced the winners of this year’s annual NCREN Community Awards.
The Robyn Render Endeavor Award was presented to James P. Gogan, director of networking at UNC Chapel Hill. This year’s Empower Award recipient was Nash Community College Chief Information Officer Jonathan Vester. And, Lee Sartain, education policy specialist at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at N.C. State University, received this year’s Community Choice Award, which was based on popular vote.
This year’s sponsors included: Cisco Systems, DukeNet Communications, Presidio, mediasite by Sonicfoundry, K&L Gates, Time Warner Cable Business Class, CommScope, ePlus, Wells Fargo Insurance, WRAL Tech Wire; and Elon University.